Stuff that occurs to me

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Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

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Sunday, 9 October 2011

Getting digital on older televisions without wasting money on fancy gadgets


About six years ago when I lived round the corner from where I live now I helped my then flatmate Phil plug in his Freeview box and TV to DVD, VCR, amplifier and speakers. Not knowing exactly how to do this at the time I spent a LOT of time on the pages learning about the different types of cable connectors and sockets and the order in which one might connect up the spaghetti. I was deliriously happy :)

The site has information gathered by volunteer nerds on how to connect up various permutations of peripherals (fortunately I didn't have to contend with any gaming devices) and it also takes into account how many SCART sockets your television has, or hasn't.

It also has information on which types of Freeview set top box to buy depending on what socket options you have on the back of your television.

This was where I discovered it's perfectly possible to have digital / Freeview television if you have an old television that doesn't have a SCART socket. As long as you have an aerial / RF socket (I've never heard of a television that doesn't have such a thing!) you can get Freeview. It's possible to buy set-top-boxes that have a 'modulated RF output' which will effectively re-broadcast the digital signal into your TV via your regular aerial cable (RF co-axial cable).

I keep seeing adverts for offers to help people 'go digital' in time for the digital switcover happening in the UK in May 2012. I do hope people aren't being suckered into buying things that they might not really need... however if anyone knows that these remodulators definitely won't work after switchover let me know and I'll amend this post!

According to the site the Icecrypt T5000 device does the job if you have no SCART socket in your television and costs from £25 from Amazon.

I'm currently using an old CRT (cathode ray tube) television - mine does have a SCART socket though. I rent and it's what was here so I'm not really in a position to change it, but to be perfectly honest I've always found the picture on these to be better. I'm not sure if that's because my TV is a fair bit smaller than the massive ones and if my TV screen was bigger I'd see that a flat screen was better - but all the flatscreen ones I've seen seem to have what I can only describe as topographical / contour lines on everything. I will certainly avoid knowingly buying anything with a 'Painter IC' integrated circuit in it. Here's a forum post from 2005 in which I bleat about them ;)

Modern televisions are, I am led to believe, much less awful for landfill - however CRT ones seem to last well enough.


  1. A SCART connection will always be better because the signal doesn't have to go through the re-modulation and then de-modulated again in the TV and the inevitable signal degradation that inevitably causes.

    All Freeview boxes I've seen have the aerial output as well as SCART, so just about any box will do. However, some of the cheap and nasty ones are, well, cheap and nasty. In particular, the remote can be crappy with small buttons and generally a poor/slow user interface. I'd recommend seeing one in action before buying one.

    I'm not sure I understand what you're saying about the flat screen TV and topographical/contour lines or the 'painter' chip. I suspect the 'painter' chip is just a generic name for one of the graphic chips - some of the comments on the blog you linked to were talking about a Philips one.

  2. I'd certainly agree that SCART connections are better but if your TV doesn't have a SCART socket (two of the three CRT televisions in my collection don't) then it's either that or buy a new set...

    Yeah I think the painter chip might be a Philips thing - they are a known nightmare from what I can gather. It's the thing that's responsible for enabling sound and picture and is also under the control of the remote. When it goes wrong it can cause all manner of problems with the TV.

    The contour lines seem to be some sort of effect I've noticed on friends' screens. They seem unbothered by it but it really shows up on faces where you can see discrete graduations of colour. I'll have to try and take a picture of it next time I'm near such a TV, although I don't know if it will show up on my iPhone camera.

  3. We recently bought a new TV because our Freesat box died. Up till then we were using an old crt TV, but decided to go for something decent, so bought a Panasonic flat screen. Picture quality and features are excellent! Certainly no graduations either on normal or HD, but it could be one of the areas that are sacrificed on cheaper TVs.


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